Japan to send SDF troops to help Haiti relief effort

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Japan's Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Monday that his country will prepare Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to help out in relief and security efforts in Haiti, which suffered a massive earthquake on Jan. 12 and has since seen scenes of chaos.

Kitazawa said Japan would commit troops in light of the tremendous damage suffered by the island nation, which is the poorest in the Western hemisphere.

The United Nations (U.N.) Security Council voted unanimously last Tuesday to send 3,500 troops and police to the nation and has since requested assistance from a number of nations, including Japan.

"I want the SDF to be ready to offer swift and appropriate action as soon as a formal request arrives from the U.N. for Japan to support its activities in Haiti," Kitazawa told a meeting of senior ministry officials.

Japan is expected to send around 300 personnel to assist in the U.N. project in Haiti. A decision was reached on Sunday between Kitazawa, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano to agree to assist in the U.N. effort.

The situation in Haiti has worsened over the month as scenes of looting and rioting have dominated television news networks worldwide, and questions may be asked as to whether Japan, technically a pacifist nation, should be sending troops into the country.

A number of doctors and medical teams from Japan have already been sent to the region, and spokespeople from the organizations have said that the scene on the ground is worsening as Haitians become increasingly frustrated as supplies fail to reach them.

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